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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Bill to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland

Tomorrow, a bill will come to the House of Commons that would extend Marriage Equality to Northern Ireland. The Labour MP Conor McGinn has proposed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) (Northern Ireland) Bill. The co-sponsors of the bill are Conservative MP Nick Herbert, Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran and the Green Party’s Co-Leader Dr Caroline Lucas.

The legislation would allow same-sex couples in Northern Ireland to get married and would bring the law in line with England, Wales and Scotland. Delivering same-sex marriage in England and Wales was one of the achievements Conservative-led coalition government in 2014.

The Bill received cross-party support from local parties, in the province where the legislative assembly had previously voted in favour of it, but blocked under the rules by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), but the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly means it has fallen to the Westminster Parliament to address the issue.

Commenting on the Bill, Layla Moran said: "Delivering same-sex marriage in England is one of the proudest achievements of the Liberal Democrats’ time in coalition government - but sadly many couples in Northern Ireland are not allowed to marry the person they love.

Ms Moran continued: "I’d much rather that this decision was taken by local politicians in Belfast, but given that it doesn’t seem the Assembly will be up and running again soon, I believe that Westminster MPs are right to change the law to provide marriage equality for everyone.

"It is a real honour and a privilege to be sponsoring this legislation. I hope that all parties will now support it and make sure it becomes law as quickly as possible so that everyone, in all parts of the United Kingdom, no matter where they live or who they love, can get married." Layla Moran added.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Karen Bradley said the Government, as with the 2014 Same Sex Marriage Act, would allow Conservative MPs to have a free vote on the Bill due to it being a matter of conscience. Its unknown if the Official Opposition Labour party will also give their MPs a free vote.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Greens launch their manifesto

The Green Party has today set out its key priorities for MPs elected on June 8th . At their Green Guarantee launch in central London the co-leaders of the party pledged that Green MPs will fight to transform politics and create a confident and caring country. They promised Green MPs would protect the environment, reverse the privatisation of the NHS, give people a referendum on the terms of any Brexit deal and bring forward plans for a basic income and shorter working week.

Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley focussed on young people, claiming that a generation has been let down by a Government 'hell-bent on an extreme Brexit' and an economy that 'fails the majority'. The Green Party also announced plans to introduce an NHS Reinstatement Bill to Parliament, to reverse the privatisation of the Health Service. They also pledged to 'reverse the NHS funding gap', in part paid for by scrapping Britain's nuclear deterrent.

The Party pledged to immediately guarantee the rights of EU citizens, protect freedom of movement and give the British public, rather than just Parliament, the final say on any EU deal. The Green Guarantee also promises to 'take steps towards the introduction of a universal basic income, including a government sponsored pilot scheme' and 'phase in' a shorter working week.

At the launch Caroline Lucas, the party's co-leader, said: "The Green Party has big, bold ideas to create a confident and caring country we can all be proud of. That means protecting our environment for our children and grandchildren. Saving our NHS from crisis and ridding it of private sector profiteering. It means giving people a proper say on the Brexit deal, not shutting them out of the process. And it means exploring changes to our economy to make it fairer and fit for the future. Green MPs elected on June 8th can be trusted to protect our public services, fight for a close relationship with the EU and truly hold whoever is in Government to account.

"If we do end up with a Tory Government you can be sure that Green MPs will hold Theresa May's feet to the fire."

Jonathan Bartley, the party's co-leader, said: "By voting Green on June 8th people can elect MPs who will always fight their corner, and push for the major changes we need to make this country a world leader, rather than the little Britain envisioned by the Tories. We are unapologetic in fighting to remain close to Europe, and in defending free movement as a wonderful gift to my generation that is being robbed from the next. We will always defend our public services, stand up for our NHS and push for bold changes so our economy delivers on fairness and on pioneering new technology.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Lib Dems put fighting Brexit at the heart of manifesto

The Liberal Democrats will launch their manifesto for what the party calls a brighter future later today. 'Change Britain’s Future' the Lib Dems say is a plan for a fairer Britain where people are decent to each other, with good schools and hospitals, a clean environment and an innovative economy.

The Lib Dems say that nothing is more important to our children’s future than Brexit. They say a bad Brexit deal, with Britain outside the single market, will wreck the future for our children, our economy and our schools and hospitals. That’s why the party say at the heart of their manifesto is a commitment to give the people the final say on the Brexit deal in a referendum.

In advance of the publication of their manifesto, the Liberal Democrats are unveiling a raft of policies to give our children and young people a brighter future. These include:
  • Helping people buy their first home for the same cost as renting, with a new model of ‘Rent to Own’ homes
  • Restoring housing benefit for young people
  • Creating a discounted bus pass for 16-21 year olds, giving a 66% discount
  • Introducing votes at 16 for elections and referendums across the UK

As well as:
  • Investing almost £7bn in our schools and colleges
  • Doubling the number of businesses that take apprenticeships
  • Tripling the early years pupil premium
  • Extending free school meals to all primary school students

Commenting on the Liberal Democrat manifesto party leader Tim Farron said: "Imagine a brighter future. You don't have to accept Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s extreme version of Brexit that will wreck the future for you, your family, your schools and hospitals. In the biggest fight for the future of our country in a generation, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has let you down by voting with Theresa May on Brexit – not against her.

"The Liberal Democrats want you to have a choice over your future. You should have your say on the Brexit deal in a referendum. And if you don't like the deal you should be able to reject it and choose to remain in Europe. We want to give all our children a brighter future in a fairer Britain where people are decent to each other, with good schools and hospitals, a clean environment and an innovative economy. Not Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain. A vote for the Liberal Democrats can change Britain's future."

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Corbyn launches Labour manifesto in Bradford

Leader of the Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the launch of The Labour Party Manifesto 2017 in Bradford, said:

"It’s a pleasure to be in Bradford today to launch Labour’s manifesto, “For the many not the few”. I’m pleased to be here in Bradford University where that great Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson was the first Chancellor. Harold Wilson had a vision for Britain and created the institutions to match, like the Open University.

Today we set out vision to transform Britain for the 21st century. This manifesto is the first draft of a better future for the people of our country. A blueprint of what Britain could be and a pledge of the difference a Labour government can make.

Like thousands of other Labour party members, I’ve been making that case to people across the country over the last few weeks. As this campaign has continued, for an election called by a Prime Minister with scant regard for her own solemn pledges, opinion has started to move towards Labour.

There is no great secret as to the reason. People want a country run for the many not the few. That is because for the last seven years our people have lived through the opposite; a Britain run for the rich, the elite and the vested interest They have benefitted from tax cuts and bumper salaries while millions have struggled.

Whatever your age or situation, people are under pressure, struggling to make ends meet. Our manifesto is for you. Parents worrying about the prospects for their children and anxious about the growing needs of their own elderly parents. Young people struggling to find a secure job and despairing of ever getting a home of their own. Children growing up in poverty. Students leaving college burdened with debt. Workers who have gone years without a real pay rise coping with stretched family budgets. Labour’s mission, over the next five years, is to change all that.

Our manifesto spells out how. With a programme that is radical and responsible. A programme that will reverse our national priorities to put the interests of the many first. Will change our country while managing within our means. And will lead us through Brexit while putting the preservation of jobs first. 

Let me highlight just a few of our key pledges, and believe it or not, you haven’t read them all already. 

  • Labour are ruling out rises on VAT and National Insurance and on income tax for all but the richest 5% of high earners. 
  • Labour will boost the wages of 5.7 million people earning less than the living wage to £10 an hour by 2020. 
  • Labour will end the cuts in the National Health Service to deliver safe staffing levels and reduce waiting lists. 
  • Labour will scrap tuition fees, lifting the debt cloud from hundreds of thousands of young people. 
  • Labour will move towards universal childcare expanding free provision for 2, 3 and 4 year olds in the next Parliament.
  • Labour is guaranteeing the triple lock to protect pensioners’ incomes.
  • Labour will build over a million new homes, at least half for social rent.
Labour makes no apology for offering new protections to people at work, including ending the scandal of zero-hour contracts. Or for finding the resources to hire 10,000 new police officers and 3,000 new firefighters. And we will do the smaller things that still make a real difference – like ending hospital car parking charges or introducing four extra bank holidays a year. But we in Labour recognise that solving these problems requires a thriving economy. One that gets our economy working again, and rises to the challenges of Brexit for jobs and investment.

For seven years the Conservatives have been holding Britain back. Low investment, low wages, low growth. Labour will move Britain forward with ambitious plans to unlock the country’s potential. Labour will set up a National Investment Bank and regional development banks to finance growth and good jobs in all parts of the UK through major capital projects. Labour will invest in our young people through a National Education Service focussed on childcare, schools and skills, giving them the capacity to make a productive contribution to tomorrow’s economy.

Labour will take our railways back into public ownership, to put the passenger first. We will take back control of our country’s water by bringing it into regional public ownership. And we will take a public stake in the energy sector to help keep fuel prices down and ensure a balanced and green energy policy for the future. The Tories now want to scare us into accepting more of the same. Only Labour has a plan ambitious enough to unleash the country’s potential. And only Labour has a plan to make Brexit work for ordinary people. We are clear: The choice is now a Labour Brexit that puts jobs first, or a Tory Brexit that will be geared to the interests of the City, and will risk making Britain a low-wage tax haven.

As we leave the European Union, because that is what the people have voted for, only Labour will negotiate a deal that preserves jobs and access to the single market, preserves rights and does not plunge our country into a race to the bottom. All this is costed, as the documents accompanying our manifesto make clear. Our revenue-raising plans ensure we can embark on this ambitious programme without jeopardising our national finances.

We are asking the better-off and the big corporations to pay a little bit more – and, of course, to stop dodging their tax obligations in the first place. And in the longer term we look to a faster rate of growth, driven by increased private and public investment, to keep our accounts in shape. This is a programme of hope.

The Tory campaign, by contrast, is built on one word: Fear What would another 5 years of Conservative government mean for Britain? Just look back at the last seven: More children in poverty. Fewer young couples able to buy their first home. More people queuing at food banks. Fewer police on the beat … fewer firefighters too. More people are in work but they’re not getting the pay or the hours to make ends meet. More young people are in debt. Will the Tories change their spots? Don’t bank on it. Their record says they wont.

Theresa May will disagree of course. So I say to her today: Prime Minister, come out of hiding and let’s have that debate on television so millions can make up their minds. What are you afraid of? It’s not too late Let’s debate our two manifestos Have the argument I am confident that once the British people get the chance to study the issues Look at the promises They will decide that Britain has been held back by the Tories. That the few have prevailed over the many for too long. And that they will decide it is now time for Labour.

Our country will only work for the many not the few if opportunity is in the hands of the many. So our manifesto is a plan for everyone to have a fair chance to get on in life, because our country will only succeed when everyone succeeds.

Thank you."

Monday, 15 May 2017

Greens pledge to scrap SATs and academies

The Green Party has promised to abolish SATs tests and end the academies programme as it announced its plans, for what the party call, "an inspiring education system". Vix Lowthion, Green Party education spokesperson and secondary school teacher, has pledged to end the practice of testing children from the age of seven through SATs, freeing teacher and pupils from "pointless, pressured testing".

The Green Party say they believe parents and teachers should control children’s education – not businesses – and Ms Lowthion has put forward plans to end the academies programme and bring existing academies back under local authority control.

Ms Lowthion also promised to invest £7billion in the education system to fill the funding gap created by years of what the Greens describe as underinvestment and cuts. Although the Greens have promised £7bn of new money but they don't say where the money is coming from to pay for it. Figures show that by 2020, 99% of schools will have been hit by a funding cut – the average primary school will have lost £103,000, and the average secondary school will have lost £470,000.

Vix Lowthion, Green Party education spokesperson and secondary school teacher, said: "We want to create an inspiring education system that transforms lives and transforms Britain - but that can’t happen without the very basic foundations being in place and this Government has been removing them brick by brick. How are schools meant to prepare children for life when 99% will suffer from funding cuts and children and teachers are subjected to pointless, pressurised testing?

"We need to make up for the enormous shortfall, the massive neglect, in our education system by plugging the £7billion spending deficit. At the same time as schools are getting less resources, more is being asked of teachers and pupils. Getting rid of SATs tests would be one big step towards putting the enjoyment, creativity, and inspiration back into school and ensure teachers are free to teach."

The launch of the Green Party’s education policy was held at Sandown Bay Academy in the Isle of Wight, which is facing closure after claims the school is not bringing in enough money.

Lowthion added: "The academies programme has taken schools out of the hands of local authorities and parents and given them over to private businesses. That means that if a school isn’t performing a commercial interest, it can be shut down at will by the owners, leaving pupils without a school to go to. We would bring existing academies back under local authority control so that our children’s education is in the hands of teachers and parents, not businesses."

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Leaders do battle as parties are airbrushed out

By David Hough

The British Presidential election will get underway in earnest this week as the parties publish their manifestos. At the end of last week, the draft Labour one was leaked, and other than a few tweaks, this seems to be the version that’s due out on Monday. The politicos read it, or at least bits of it, those vaguely interested read the carefully selected synopses in their daily paper, or most viewed website, and the rest of the population just carried on regardless.

I’m not going to say anything about it today, and will wait until they’re all published by the end of the week, and make some comparisons, as each of them tries to persuade us to vote for them. In the opening sentence, I described this as the ‘British presidential election,’ and that is what it has become. It almost doesn’t matter what is promised, pledged and finessed, hardly anybody will read them.

What has happened this week is that the campaigns have become almost entirely focused on the party leaders. By this I mean Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, as all the others have been virtually brushed out of the campaign.

The crushing defeat the Liberal Democrats suffered in 2015 has meant much less coverage on this occasion, while UKIP’s leader, Paul Nuttall’s appearances make Theresa May seem like she’s out there frantically trying to be on the television 24 hours a day. Since the advent of 24-hour news channels, the broadcasters have changed the way politics is watched, and heard to. You would have thought that more time would have been made to enable politicians to get their messages across, so the public better understood the issues.

Unfortunately, the opposite has happened, and we have been inflicted with ‘sound bite’ politics, and it has been getting worse. Unless you really are interested in the arguments, most people will just catch the odd bit of a speech on the news, and hear the slogans the parties are using. This is why ‘Strong and Stable,’ is having such an impact, and ‘For the Many, Not the Few,’ though to a lesser extent.

The Labour slogan worked well in 1997, when people were wanting to hear the message, but in 2017, the short sharp Conservative one has much more resonance. Both slogans seem designed to be personifications of the image of the leader each party wishes to promote. Mrs. May as someone who will bring strength, especially when dealing with European Union representatives over the UK’s withdrawal, and brig stability as Britain faces the challenges ahead.

Part of the message that Jeremy Corbyn promulgated when running for the Labour Party leadership, on both occasions, was that he cared more about the lives of those forgotten by the governments (including the 1997-2010 Labour one), and had regaled against the way the ‘masses’ had been forgotten. Therefore, ‘For the Many, Not the Few,’ is the perfect slogan for what the Labour Party is trying to sell Mr. Corbyn as, a political leader who really does care about the huddled masses.

There is anecdotal evidence that Conservative candidates in some areas are promoting themselves as Theresa May candidates, and we’ve all seen the placards with the Prime Minister’s name in large writing, with the Conservative Party name and logo barely visible underneath.

This is quite remarkable when you consider how little Mrs. May is being seen on the campaign trail. She’s being filmed doing a little door knocking (not very well organized by CCHQ as nobody seems to be in), and a few unthreatening television interviews, such as last week’s appearance on The One Show with her husband. She has also made the customary round of factory visits, and when challenging questions are asked, she does sometimes look uncomfortable. There have also been stories saying that only selected journalists are permitted to ask questions, and Michael crick alleging (probably because he misunderstood what he was told) that questions had to be submitted beforehand. Mrs. May is not a natural campaigner, regardless of her abilities in other areas.

Mr. Corbyn, on the other hand, is out and about, attending mass rallies in places up and down the country. These rallies seem to be mainly attended by his fiercest supporters, but that they are there, means others can attend if they wish.

‘The Corbyn Factor’ is a very interesting one. The Conservatives seem to want to make the campaign about Mr. Corbyn (when they’re not talking about Mrs. May), as they think that he is Labour’s biggest liability, while many of his supporters are happy about this, as they believe the more people see of him, the more the public will like what they see. Which of these is correct we will discover in just under four weeks, when either the Conservatives have a substantial majority, or the polling companies give up on political polling, and just revert to asking us whether we like the new brand of baked beans.

The Presidential campaign is therefore well underway, and it won’t get better over the final weeks of the campaign. The nature of our electoral system, coupled with the unending media coverage we have now, will ensure that this situation will not improve any time soon. On a final note, all nominations closed on Thursday, and if you go to your council websites you will be able to find all the candidates in your constituency.

David was Labour PPC for Rayleigh & Wickford in 2015

Friday, 12 May 2017

Lib Dems pledge to legalise cannibis

The Liberal Democrats say they have a plan to break the grip of criminal gangs and protect young people by introducing a legal, regulated market for cannabis. They say they're proposing this because they say that the current approach to cannabis has been a catastrophic failure. Unregulated cannabis is freely available and widely used, generating significant mental and psychical health problems – especially for young people – who are being harmed by increasingly potent products.

And because organised criminals are making huge profits at the expense of people’s health, in an illegal industry with no age checks, and no controls on quality or strength. The UK cannabis economy is worth an estimated £7bn a year and the Liberal Democrats say they could put that money to better use. The party accuse every British government so far has passed the buck of responsibility for this problem, thereby giving total control to the illegal rings who benefit from it. This is irresponsible and dangerous.

The Liberal Democrats say they're proposing a series of strict regulations, such as limiting sales of cannabis to over-18s, making cannabis safer by limiting its psychoactive chemical content, and taxing all cannabis sales (generating up to £1bn for investment in drug education and treatment). How can they know it will work? They say they have rigorously consulted a panel of experts, including senior police officers, drugs policy analysts and public health experts. They considered evidence from countries who’ve successfully legalised cannabis.

The Lib Dems say that when a country as eminently sensible as Canada has come to the conclusion that regulation is better than prohibition, you know that the tide has turned. The question is now how to regulate responsibly and effectively. The Liberal Democrats say they can do it.